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Setting the scene: The use of art to promote reconciliation in international criminal justice

  • Marina Aksenova (a1) and Amber N. Rieff (a2)


This article maps out the landscape holding and connecting three interrelated phenomena: art, international criminal justice, and reconciliation. We argue that reconciliation, viewed as a restoration process, is one of the goals of international criminal justice. Yet, its attainment through law is challenging because international criminal justice, strictly construed, is outcome oriented. Art can serve as a ‘bridge’ linking normative legal standards with their reconciliatory aspirations. The key argument is therefore that art has the clear ability to mediate and amplify the law’s restorative potential through three key features. Firstly, art reflects the complexity of the human condition and reserves a place for emotional processing. Secondly, it is a useful relational tool in opening the space for dialogue, the latter being essential for reconciliation. Lastly, art has the capacity to translate legalistic findings into a language accessible to a wider audience.



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1 See Preamble to the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; UN Doc. S/RES/827 (1993); UN Doc. S/RES/955 (1994); Duthie, R., ‘Introduction’, in Duthie, R. and Seils, P. (eds.), Justice Mosaics: How Context Shapes Transitional Justice in Fractured Societies (2017), 8, at 11; Teitel, R., Transitional Justice (2010), 51.

2 See Bloomfield, D., Barnes, T. and Huyse, L., Reconciliation After Violent Conflict: A Handbook (2003); Lederach, J., Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (1998); Robinson, D., ‘Serving the Interests of Justice: Amnesties, Truth Commissions and the International Criminal Court’, (2003) 14 EJIL 481; Stahn, C., International Criminal Justice and Reconciliation: Beyond the Retributive v. Restorative Divide (2015); Hayner, P., Unspeakable Truths (2003).

3 UN Doc. S/RES/827 (1993); UN Doc. S/RES/955 (1994); Report of the UN Secretary-General, para. 38.

4 Prosecutor v. Kamuhanda, Judgement, Case No. ICTR-95-54A-T, T. Ch. II, 22 January 2004, para. 753; Prosecutor v. Momir Nikolić, Sentencing Judgement, Case No. IT-02-60/1-S, T. Ch. I, 2 December 2003, para. 93.

6 ICTY, ‘Message by Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald on the Occasion of the Final ICTY Symposium’, 18 December 2017, available at

7 Bloomfield, Barnes and Stahn, supra note 2, at 12.

8 Shnabel, N. and Nadler, A., ‘A Needs-Based Model of Reconciliation: Satisfying the Differential Emotional Needs of Victim and Perpetrator as a Key to Promoting Reconciliation’, (2008) 1 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 116, at 116.

9 Rosoux, V., Negotiating Reconciliation in Peacemaking. Quandaries of Relationship Building (2017), 16.

10 Lederach, supra note 2.

11 Isasi-Díaz, A. M., La Lucha Continues: Mujerista Theology (2004), 203; Mani, R., ‘Women, Art and Post-Conflict Justice’, (2011) 11 International Criminal Law Review 543, at 546.

12 Bell, V., Art of Post-Dictatorship: Ethics and Aesthetics in Transitional Argentina (2014), 1.

13 Minow, M., Breaking the Cycles of Hatred (2002), 15.

14 Shefik, S., ‘Reimagining Transitional Justice Through Participatory Art’, (2018) 12 International Journal of Transitional Justice 314; Garnsey, E., ‘Rewinding and Unwinding: Art and Justice in Times of Political Transition’, (2016) 10 International Journal of Transitional Justice 471; Bell, supra note 12; Mani, supra note 11; Rush, P. and Simić, O. (eds.), The Arts of Transitional Justice. Culture, Activism, and Memory after Atrocity (2013); Ramírez-Barat, C. (ed.), Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society: Beyond Outreach (2014).

15 Garnsey, supra note 14, at 473–4.

16 Ibid.

17 Report of the Secretary-General, The Rule of Law and Transitional Justice in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies, UN Doc. S/2004/616 (2004), available at

18 For a comprehensive treatment see R. Teitel, Transitional Justice (2010).

19 P. Rush, ‘Preface: After Atrocity: Foreword to Transition’, in Rush and Simić (eds.), supra note 14, 5, at 6.

20 C. Ramirez-Barat, ‘Introduction: Transitional Justice and the Public Sphere’, in C. Ramirez-Barat (ed.), supra note 14, 26, at 27.

21 P. de Greiff, ‘On Making the Invisible Visible: The Role of Cultural Interventions in Transitional Justice Processes’, in C. Ramirez-Barat (ed.), ibid., 10, at 13.

22 Teitel, supra note 18, at 33.

23 Schwöbel, C., ‘The market and marketing culture of international criminal law’, in Schwöbel, C. (ed.), Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law (2014), 264, at 267.

24 There are some relevant pieces exploring different aspects of art in the context law, while the systematic study is still missing. For jurisprudential perspective see Sherwin, R., Visualizing Law in the Age of the Digital Baroque: Arabesques and Entanglements (2011). For the case study of a specific court see Elander, M., Figuring Victims in International Criminal Justice: The Case of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (2018). For the perspective related to the specific medium of art – documentary, photography or tv series – see Werner, W., ‘Justice on Screen – A Study of Four Documentary Films on the International Criminal Court’, (2016) 29 LJIL 1043; Tallgren, I., ‘Watching Tokyo Trial’, (2017) 5 London Review of International Law 291; Duffy, A., ‘Bearing Witness to Atrocity Crimes: Photography and International Law’, (2018) 40 Human Rights Quarterly 776.

25 See similar approach in Mégret, F., ‘Of Shrines, Memorials and Museums: Using the International Criminal Court’s Victim Reparation and Assistance Regime to Promote Transitional Justice’, (2010) 16 Buffalo Human Rights Law Review 1.

26 Adorno, T., Aesthetic Theory (1997), 100, 227.

27 Ibid., at 132.

28 Ibid., at 3.

29 On the reconciliatory potential of art see Stepakoff, S., ‘The Healing Power of Symbolization in the Aftermath of Massive War Atrocities: Examples from the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Survivors’, (2007) 47 Journal of Humanistic Psychology 400.

30 O’Sullivan, S., ‘The Aesthetic of Affect: Thinking Art beyond Representation’, (2001) 6 Angelaki Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 125.

31 Ibid.

32 Brinck, I., ‘Empathy, Engagement, Entrainment: The Interaction Dynamics of Aesthetic Experience’, (2018) 19 Cognitive Process 201, at 202.

33 Ornstein, A., ‘Artistic Creativity and the Healing Process’, (2008) 3 Psychoanalytic Inquiry 386, at 391. See also F. d’Evie, ‘Dispersed Truths and Displaced Memories: Extraterritorial Witnessing and Memorializing by Diaspora Through Public Art’, in Rush and Simić (eds.), supra note 14, 63, at 73.

34 Mégret notes that the ‘sites of consciousness’ (commemoration sites) are not simply a product but a process of coming to terms with the past. See Mégret, supra note 25, at 20.

35 Shnabel and Nadler, supra note 8, at 129.

36 Rimé, al., ‘The impact of Gacaca tribunals in Rwanda: Psychosocial effects of participation in the truth and reconciliation process after a genocide’, (2011) 41 European Journal of Social Psychology 695, at 697.

37 Weisleder, P. and Rublee, C., ‘The Nueropsychological Consequences of Armed Conflicts and Torture’, (2018) 9 Current Neurology and Nueroscience Reports 1, at 2.

38 Stepakoff, supra note 29, at 400. To that effect Olivera Simic and Dijana Miloševic reflect on the role of the theatre in reconciliation: ‘For victims and survivors, the play offers the direct possibility of healing: seeing and hearing the stories becomes a public acknowledgement of the often unacknowledged and therefore dangerously invisible, crimes.’ See O. Simic and D. Miloševic, ‘Enacting Justice: The Role of Dah Theatre Company’, in Rush and Simić (eds.) supra note 14, 99, at 107.

39 Brinck, supra note 32, at 201.

40 Ornstein, supra note 33.

41 Stepakoff, supra note 29.

42 Ornstein, supra note 33. See also C. Ramirez-Barat, ‘Transitional Justice and the Public Sphere’, in C. Ramirez-Barat (ed.), supra note 14, 27, at 39.

43 Rosoux, supra note 9, at 25.

44 D. Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (2003), 2 (as cited in N. Siddiqui and H. J. Joffre-Eichhorn, ‘From Tears to Energy: Early Uses of Participatory Theater in Afghanistan’, in C. Ramírez-Barat (ed.) supra note 14, 369, at 370); See also N. Siddiqui, H. Marifat and S. Kouvo, ‘Culture, Theatre and Justice: Examples from Afghanistan’, in Rush and Simić (eds.), supra note 14, at 113.

45 See P. McAuliffe, ‘Ariel Dorfman’s Death and the Maiden as a Mirror Reflecting the Dilemmas of Transitional Justice Policy’, in Rush and Simić (eds.), supra note 14, at 81.

46 Koch, S., ‘Arts and Health: Active Factors and a Theory Framework of Embodied Aesthetics’, (2017) 54 Arts in Psychotherapy 85, at 88.

47 N. Siddiqui and H. J. Joffre-Eichhorn, ‘From Tears to Energy: Early Uses of Participatory Theater in Afghanistan’, in C. Ramírez-Barat (ed.) supra note 14, 369, at 374.

48 Ibid.

49 Stepakoff, supra note 29, at 402.

50 Koch, supra note 46.

51 Bell, supra note 12, at 38.

52 Brinck, supra note 32, at 202.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid.

55 Adorno, supra note 26, at 8.

56 See also C. Ramirez-Barat, ‘Transitional Justice and the Public Sphere’, in C. Ramirez-Barat (ed.), supra note 14, at 30.

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid., at 225–6.

59 Mani, supra note 11, at 546.

60 Koch, supra note 46.

62 Atkinson-Phillips, A., ‘On Being Moved: Art, Affect and Activation in Public Commemorations of Trauma’, (2018) 2 Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 381.

63 Bal, M., Reader (2006), 252.

64 Ibid., at 253.

65 Ibid.; Pablo de Greiff argues that interpreting art allows for a possibility to enlarge someone’s perspective and generate the sensibility that paves the way for changes. See de Greiff, supra note 21, at 17.

66 Bal, supra note 63, at 237.

67 Atkinson-Phillips, supra note 62, at 384.

68 Cehajic-Clancy, S. and Bilewicz, M., ‘Fostering Reconciliation Through Historical Moral Exemplars in a Postconflict Society’, (2017) 3 Journal of Peace Psychology 288, at 289.

69 Atkinson-Phillips, supra note 62, at 382.

70 Stevens, Q. and Franck, K., Memorials as Spaces of Engagement (2015), 5; see also F. Mégret, supra note 25, who calls such spaces ‘sites of conscience’.

71 Atkinson-Phillips, supra note 62, at 382.

72 Prosecutor v. Lubanga, Order for Reparations, ICC-01/04-01/06-3129-AnxA, A. Ch., 3 March 2015, para. 46.

73 Cited in The Prosecutor v. Lubanga, Filing regarding symbolic collective reparations projects, ICC-01/04-01/06, T. Ch. II, 19 September 2016, para. 10.

74 Ibid., para. 23.

75 Ibid., para. 41.

76 Ibid., para. 35. For more on art and reparations see M. Aksenova, ‘Art in the Practice of Reparations at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court’, (2020) 43 Suffolk Journal of Transnational Law (forthcoming).

77 Prosecutor v. Lubanga, Order approving the proposed plan of the Trust Fund for Victims in relation to symbolic collective reparations, ICC-01/04-01/06, T. Ch. II, 21 October 2016, paras. 17, 63.

78 Prosecutor v. Lubanga, Fifth progress report on the implementation of collective reparations as per Trial Chamber II’s orders of 21 October 2016 and 6 April 2017, ICC-01/04-01/06, T. Ch. II, 2 October 2018.

79 Eliza Garnsey duly notes that the question of agency is complex when it comes to exploring the connection between art and transitional justice. See Garnsey, supra note 14, at 474.

80 Mégret, supra note 25, at 5.

81 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Art. 75(1).

82 Prosecutor v. Katanga, Order for Reparations Pursuant to Article 75 of the Statute, ICC 01/04-01/07, T. Ch. II, 24 March 2017, para. 297; see also Minow, supra note 13, at 23.

83 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, Art. 75(2).

84 Ibid., Art. 79.

85 Mégret, supra note 25, at 10.

86 Ibid., at 13.

87 ICC Assembly of States Parties, Resolution ICC-ASP/4/Res.3, 3 December 2005, para. 50(a)(i), available at See also Mégret, supra note 25, at 14.

88 Stepakoff, supra note 29, at 400; Simic and Miloševic, ‘Enacting Justice: The Role of Dah Theatre Company’, in Rush and Simić (eds.), supra note 14, 99, at 107.

89 Prosecutor v. Kaing Guek Eav alias Duch, Trial Judgment, Case No. 001/18-07-2007/ECCC/TC, T. Ch., 20 March 2012 (‘Duch Trial Judgment’), para. 660.

90 Case 002/02, Civil Party Lead Co-Lawyers Final Claim for Reparation, Case No. 002/19-09-2007-ECCC/TC, T. Ch., 30 May 2017, para. 30; Case 002/02, Summary Judgement, Case No. 002/19-09-2007-ECCC/TC, T. Ch., 16 November 2018, para. 66.

91 See Va Sonyka, ‘“Phka Sla” dance to help KR’s forced marriage victims heal’, Khmer Times, 17 January 2017, available at

92 A. M. Sassoon, ‘A moving show on forced marriage’, Phnom Pehn Post, 23 January 2017, available at

93 Ibid.

94 Ibid.

95 Huneeus, A., ‘International Criminal Law by Other Means: The Quasi-Criminal Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Courts’, (2013) 107 AJIL 1, at 5; see also Askenova, supra note 76.

96 Ibid.

97 Castillo Páez v. Peru, Reparations and Costs, IACHR 8, IACHR Series C No. 43, IHRL 1426, 27 November 1998, para. 48.

98 E.g., Barrios Altos v. Peru, Judgment, IACtHR, 30 November 2001, para. 5; Mapiripán Massacre v. Colombia, Judgment, IACtHR, 15 September 2005, paras. 10–13; Moiwana Community v. Suriname, Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Judgment, IACHR Series C No. 124, 15 June 2005, paras. 2–7.

99 E.g., Cantoral Benavides v. Peru, Reparations, IACHR Series C No. 56, 29 September 1999, para. 81.

100 Hodžić, R., ‘Living the Legacy of Mass Atrocities. Victim’s Perspectives on War Crimes Trials’, (2010) 8 Journal of International Criminal Justice 113.

101 Elander, supra note 24, at 149.

104 F. Gantheret, ‘The Use of Artistic Productions as a Transitional Justice Mechanism in the Context of International Criminal Justice and the Misuse of International Tribunals’ Mandates’, ARTIJ Blog, 1 July 2017, available at

105 Ibid.; For an analysis of the role of photography in international criminal justice see also the contribution by R. Oidtmann, ‘International Justice Through the Kaleidoscope of Photography – Thoughts on the Exhibition “Trauma, Healing and Hope” at the International Criminal Court’, ARTIJ Blog, 2 July 2019, available at

106 Lincoln, J., Transitional Justice, Peace and Accountability: Outreach and the Role of International Courts after Conflict (2011), 105; see also Karwande, M., ‘Implementing an Engagement Model: Outreach at the Special Court for Sierra Leone’, in Ramírez-Barat, C. (ed.) Transitional Justice, Culture, and Society. Beyond Outreach (2014), 48, at 49.

107 Ibid., at 117.

108 Elander, supra note 24, at 150.

109 Ibid., at 157.

110 Ibid., at 159.

111 Ibid., at 165.

112 See Aksenova, M., ‘The ICC Involvement in Colombia: Walking the Fine Line Between Peace and Justice’, in Bergsmo, M. and Stahn, C. (eds.), Quality Control in Preliminary Examination : Volume 1 (2018), 257.

113 The preamble to the peace deal speaks about the rights of victims to truth, justice, and reparation. Section 5 of the peace deal elaborates on the mechanisms whereby these goals are attained. See 2016 Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera, Section 5, available at

114 2017 Law No. 1 on The Creation of The Integral System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-repetition, Art. 18, available at

115 ‘Colombia’s Farc concludes weapons disarmament’, BBC News, 16 August 2017, available at

116 More information is available on the website of the university at

117 Information available at, accessed 5 February 2020.

118 More information is available at

119 M. Aksenova and M. Spanu, ‘Art and International Courts’, ARTIJ Symposium, 25 June 2019, available at

120 J. Carr, ‘On “Legislative Art”: Laurie Jo Reynolds and Tamms Year Ten’, The Brooklyn Quarterly, available at

121 Prosecutor v. Lubanga, Filing Regarding Symbolic Collective Reparations Projects, ICC-01/04-01/06, T. Ch. II, 19 September 2016, paras. 22 et seq.

122 1995 Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act No. 34.

123 B. McIntyre, ‘Art Inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, South African History Online, 7 December 2012, available at

124 M. K. Magistad, ‘South Africa’s imperfect progress, 20 years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’, PRI, 6 april 2017, available at

125 Ibid.

126 Ibid.

127 Ibid., at 3.

128 C. M. Cole, ‘Reverberations of Testimony: South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Art and Media’, in C. Ramírez-Barat (ed.), supra note 14, 397, at 398.

129 Stepakoff, supra note 29, at 412.

130 Koch, supra note 46.

131 Ornstein, supra note 33, at 386.

132 McIntyre, supra note 123.

133 The image is reproduced with the permission of the rights owner. More information is available at

134 A. Smeulers, M. Weerdesteijn and B. Hola, Perpetrators of International Crimes (2019).

135 D. Eagleman, ‘The Brain on Trial’, The Atlantic, July/August 2011, available at

136 A. M. Isasi-Díaz, supra note 11, 203.

137 P. Clark, The Gacaca Courts, Post-Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda: Justice Without Lawyers (2010).

138 Baines, E., Buried in the Heart: Women, Complex Victimhood and the War in Northern Uganda (2016), 4.

139 Ibid., at 99 et seq.

140 Werner, supra note 24.

141 Ibid., at 1045–6.

142 Tallgren, supra note 24.

143 Ibid., at 295.

144 Rose, G., Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials (2012).

145 Ibid.

146 Sherwin, supra note 24, at 187.

147 Ibid., at 174.

148 Ibid., at 113.

149 Ibid., at 177.

150 See Gantheret, supra note 104; Oidtmann, supra note 105.

151 Duffy, supra note 24.

152 Adorno, T., Can One Live after Auschwitz? A Philosophical Reader (2003), 252 (as cited by Duffy, supra note 24).

153 Elander, supra note 24, at 170.

154 T. De Duve, ‘Art in the Face of Radical Evil’, (2008) 125 October 3 (as cited by Elander, supra note 24, at 173).

155 E. González Cueva and M. F. Librizzi, ‘Photography and Transitional Justice: Evidence, Postcard, Placard, Token of Absence’, in C. Ramírez-Barat (ed.), supra note 14, at 433.

156 Ibid., at 22.

157 Schwöbel-Patel, C., ‘The “Ideal” Victim of International Criminal Law’, (2018) 29 EJIL 703, at 724.

158 Milanovic, M., ‘Establishing the Facts about Mass Atrocities: Accounting for the Failure of the ICTY to Persuade Target Audiences’, (2016) 47 Georgetown Journal of International Law 1321.

159 Mapiripán Massacre v. Colombia, Merits, Reparations and Costs, IACHR, Series C No. 134, 15 September 2005.

161 See also Garnsey, supra note 14, at 476.

162 Aksenova, M., van Sliedregt, E. and Parmentier, S., Breaking the Cycle of Mass Atrocities: Criminological and Socio-Legal Approaches in International Criminal Law (2019).

163 A. Crombach, ‘Children and the Cycle of Violence in Post-Conflict Settings: Mental Health, Aggression, and Interventions in Burundi’, (unpublished PhD. dissertation on file with authors).

164 Humphrey, M., ‘From Victim to Victimhood: Truth Commissions and Trails as Rituals of Political Transition and Individual Healing’, (2010) 2 Australian Journal of Anthropology 171, at 171.

165 See Gantheret, supra note 104.

166 Bal, supra note 63, at 253.

167 Leebaw, B. A., ‘The Irreconcilable Goals of Transitional Justice’, (2008) 30 Human Rights Quarterly 95.


Setting the scene: The use of art to promote reconciliation in international criminal justice

  • Marina Aksenova (a1) and Amber N. Rieff (a2)


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